It feels like just yesterday I was in the back seat of my dad's pickup driving to Gateway Niagara to meet Laurens and Cheryl for the first time. Flash forward a few months and again, it seems like just yesterday that I was boarding a plane with their family and headed for Haiti, an island so faraway and foreign to me. Hours later, we landed and once more, it was just yesterday we were bumping down the Port-au-Prince streets in the back of a rusty bus. Cheryl was my informal tour guide, pointing out sights to my left and right as we bounded past. My mind resembled the blurry images flying by around us - a clouded mush of shock and awe of all that entered my field of vision. Even though we had only be friends for a few weeks, Laurens, Cheryl and their kids were one of the few pieces of familiarity and comfort that I clung to upon my arrival and during the months to follow.
3 years have passed in Haiti since those yesterdays. This past Sunday at church the vanderMark family was requested to come to the stage and were recognized for all of the work they have done alongside their Haitian counterparts. Through the earthquake, hurricanes, disease outbreaks, and generator crises (to name a few), they have been on the front lines 24/7 serving and using their God-given talents to further the kingdom.
Meanwhile, I've had the privilege of working with their 3+2 children. Working with Ana, Mina, Bridgely, Grayden and Teagan each day has been one of the best highlights of my time in Haiti. We have all grown in our knowledge, experiences, and our faith. Each one of them is such a unique combination of passions and giftings and I am so excited to see where the Lord takes them as they continue to grow. And I will miss them like crazy.
Today was another farewell day as their family was recognized in a staff send-off party down at the cafeteria. There had to have been at least 80 people, mostly Haitian, who were in attendance to show their gratitude and appreciation to Laurens and Cheryl for their ministry and leadership in their roles here in Haiti.
Later on as the crowd diminished I stood with Cheryl and we chatted about their last days here and all that the final days will bring. Through teary eyes we laughed about how backwards it is in our minds that they would be leaving Haiti before me. Ask anyone when we arrived including me, and we would have all agreed that I was on my way out far before them. And yet here we are, with them tying up loose ends and me advancing plans for the year ahead. Even though we all know that this is the Lord's plan and He has given each one of us a peace about where He is leading, it seems so weird that this same family I looked to and leaned on is branching off in another direction while I stay on a similar course. Once again, it's a reminder that only the Lord knows our path, and he provides and directs us according to the bigger picture that only He can see.
Please be in prayer for the vanderMark crew in the coming days as they say their final goodbyes and prepare for the next chapter that awaits their family. Thank you Laurens and Cheryl for taking me with you on this part of your journey. May God bless you and continue to use you for His glory wherever He may lead.